“If you weren’t born with the gift of gab, it may take a great deal of practice to become an expert communicator—but it is certainly worth it to put in the time.”
No matter what type of work you do, being a good communicator is of absolute importance. A lot of business owners get upset when things are not running as they should, when really, the problem is that they are not able to clearly express what they want. Communication is at the baseline of business, and being proficient at this is necessary for every type of interaction we have. Without it, nothing would get done.
Always Be Ready to Answer
You should be able to describe your business in one sentence. Anyone can ramble on for 20 minutes and give someone the basic idea, but there is a difference between this person, and a business owner who can concisely relate the essence of what they do—and why not do it with some panache? How many times have you been out at a friendly gathering, at church, or at a family get-together and someone asked you, “So what does your company do?”, or, “Isn’t that what (another business) does”?
Be ready to explain exactly what you do, and how your company is distinctive from others. Every hangout or formal meeting you have is a forum to casually or officially advertise, and every inquiry about your business—no matter how innocuous it may seem—is an opportunity to pitch your company or even your latest project or venture. You never know what advantage you stand to gain from making a positive impression on someone, so it is a good idea to always be prepared to describe what you do.
How Can You Improve?
Don’t Assume that it’s Obvious
It’s not that you have to give a long-winded speech every time you interact with someone; you just need to be able to get the point across without confusing them. If you are running a business, or if you have been in charge of people in any capacity, then this is probably something that you have already experienced. Don’t assume that everything is as obvious to your staff or whomever you’re communicating with, as it is to you. You are steeped in all aspects of the business, all the time; your staff, on the other hand, has a more limited focus. We can sometimes easily forget that the person we’re talking to may not be privy to details that we take for granted. When you pay attention, you will begin to see the small cues; these cues—body language, tone, subtle feedback—will tell you whether or not your listener is on the same page.
Good Communication Begins with Good Listening
Being willing and open to hear what someone has to say is the first step to having a successful conversation, wherein the person you are speaking to comes away with a clear understanding of what was said. Most people miss this point. Especially when you are confident in your ability to relate a message, you feel that there is no need to hear feedback and make sure that what you said was understood. It’s just like being a student in a classroom. After the teacher makes a point, he or she encourages discussion and listens to feedback from students to be sure they really know what they’re talking about. Be patient with people, listen to what they have to say, and you will have a much better idea of where they’re at.
Ask the Right Questions
Once again, if people are not getting the message, the problem may lie with you, and not the listener. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t be general in your approach, but instead ask pointed questions so that you get exactly the information that you need. Sometimes, you may be reluctant to ask someone directly what you want to know because it’s uncomfortable, as in the case of confronting an employee who has been accused of stealing, for example. Or maybe a staff member is having trouble at home, and you’re not sure how to broach the subject. Even in these cases, the best way to understand the situation is to approach it, head-on.
If you are not confident as a communicator, there are many ways to get better at this. Be sensitive to subtle cues, be engaging, and ask specifically directed questions, for a start. In addition to this, being able to convey a message spontaneously, rather than conducting yourself according to a prepared method or rubric, is a more effective way of communicating. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to even take a college course in business communication. If you weren’t born with the gift of gab, it may take a great deal of practice to become an expert communicator—but it is certainly worth it to put in the time. However you improve this skill, it is one of the best possible ways to get more work done, more effectively.
Here are a few more lessons for better communication skills:
Elevate Your Speaking Skills: Professional Communication 101